Answer to the Question of the Week:
I admit that have been blessed with this gift and even today, I cannot but feel enthralled with all that is language, speech and everything that goes with it... It has -and continues- to serve me well.
Another question that comes up regularly is the one trying to figure out of multilinguals truly have a “gift of language”. I’d say that, maybe, some do. Most of us work hard and study much. It truly is a fascination. Truth is, linguists are learners, thinkers, philosophers … they love reading, researching etymologies, traveling, and discovering cultures, new and old, they are globalists who believe that we are one. Linguists perceive the world differently. Just as the knowledge of languages may influence our brain by making it more flexible and receptive to inhibitory processors and cognitive abilities. It opens new and diverse ways of lives.
At University I studied Applied Linguistics or the study of Applied Language Studies (ALS) which de facto studies the particular domains of language learning and its use, foreign language learning, foreign language teaching, bi- and multilingualism, translation and interpretation, communication in professional contexts, as well as intercultural communication. It just shows the possibilities of different career paths one could take. For myself, it seemed to be the natural flowing course following the classical studies I had undertaken in my secondary years, it seemed natural to take on Italian and Spanish. Both romance languages, both taking their origins in Latin and Greek … and there was Portuguese … Anyways, I seemed to sail through these quite easily. The one language I could not become an expert in turned out to be German. I ended up reading and writing it … Talking was another story. It always felt like talking with a hot potato in my mouth. And I disliked it. A lot. My point is that it is easier to learn and withhold knowledge from languages closest to your area (in my case that does not make a lot of sense given that Germany is actually as close as France is or even The Netherlands … and closer yet than Spain or Italy … But it is what it is … and the saying goes that it is easier to stich with either Germanic or Romance languages ….
Now, I understand that learning a new language can become a harrowing experience for many people. Vocabulary, grammar, syntax, accents …. All pave the way for a strenuous road to knowledge. But it does not have to be this way. Learning how to understand and speak another language should be done in a fun way. In the end you do not all want to be professional linguists.
One of my personal favorites is “The Rosetta Stone (™) … (and no, I do not necessarily endorse them by mentioning them) but in the end, choose one that you like … Repetition is the key. Watch foreign movies in their original version and read subtitles. Do this often enough and you will, in the end, grasp some words and phrases. Listening is the most important part of learning a new language. Read books … First in English so that you know what the book is about. Then get yourself a good translation of the same book … compare. Use a dictionary or simply plug it in a web-based translation tool. (It may not be the most accurate translation, but with the original book to compare …. You’ll get the gist of it) Get audio books in foreign tongues and do the same as with written books. Here, the advantage is that you here the spoken word. Believe me. Your brain is picking it up. Even if you do not know it yet. Understanding and speaking…. Or take a class. Many community colleges have night classes. There is always the internet. Daring to speak… … that is all you need to open doors. Practice, practice, practice … And once the doors are open, who is to tell, the sky is the limit.
Finally, have a good time. Never forget to have a good time. Last but not least, send me a note to tell me how you are faring … I’d love to hear from you!